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Advanced Blending is the second installment in Deke McClelland's series on making photorealistic compositions in Photoshop. The course explores blending options and shows how to use them to create sophisticated effects and seamless compositions, often without masking. Beginning with the basics of blending layered images, the course sheds light on the formulas behind the Photoshop blend modes and shows how to comp scanned line art, create double-exposure effects, correct skin tones, and work with the luminance sliders.
In this exercise, I am going to introduce you to your final blending option inside Photoshop. And these are the luminance exclusion slider bars, which allow you to either drop away specific ranges of luminance levels inside the active layer or force the display of luminance levels from the underlying layers. We are going to use these options in order to mass this lightning into these clouds. So the lighting actually appears to be coming out of the clouds, as if it's all one organic image. Now I have two files open, one is called Big cloud.jpg and the other one is called Lightning.jpg.
They are both found inside the 09_sliders folder. You might look at this lightning and figure if you were actually given this job, my gosh this is going to be so complicated. We have all these tiny little tendrils of light coming off here. Actually masking bright lightning against a dark background is quite easy. All you have to do is go over to the Channels Panel and find the channel that offers the most contrast, you'd see that the Red Channel doesn't offer enough, the Blue Channel is kind of a mess, it's got all kinds of posterization inside of it particularly over here on the left hand side.
The Green Channels probably the best bet. Even though, it's not in great shape either. But we go ahead and grab that green channel, duplicated by dropping it onto the little page icon there at the bottom of the panel. Presumably, we would rename this mask or something along those lines, press Ctrl+L or Command+L to bring up the Levels dialog box and go ahead and crank up the black slider value to about 90 should do us. And then I take the white slider triangle down to something like 220 and at that's it. Click OK, we have got ourselves a mask.
Then you would Ctrl+Click or Command+ Click on the mask, in order to load it up as a selection outline, switch back to the RGB image, switch over to Layers Panel, double-click on the Background Layer and let's go ahead and call this New Layer lightning and then click OK. Just drop-down to the Add Layer mask icon at the bottom of the Panel and click on it. And now you have managed to mask the lightning. Let's go ahead and copy it over to the clouds image by right-clicking inside the image window, choosing the Duplicate Layer command and then I'll go and switch the Document to Big clouds.
The layer is already named so we are good to go, click OK, switch over to that image and we've got ourselves a mass lightning. But couple of different problems, one is, we've got these sort of dark edges surrounding each one of the bolt of lightning. And the lighting doesn't appear to be coming out of the clouds. It just appears to be sitting on top of them. By the way, this is taken too much effort. Even though, I went that quickly we could do this job a lot better with a lot less work without any masking whatsoever, just by taking advantage of blending.
So I'm going to right-click on that Layer Mask and choose Delete Layer Mask to get rid of it. The first step where blending is concerned, is to keep the bright stuff drop out the dark stuff, so of course we are going to switch to a lighten mode and our pre-eminent lighten mode is Screen, and that's going to work pretty darn well for us. That does a lot of the work right there by itself, without harming the image or requiring us to generate a mask. However, we can still see an awful lot of that red background and it's brightening of the clouds as well.
So we need to drop out that background. And you do that by bringing up the Blending Options dialog box. And the easiest way to bring up the dialog box is just double-click on the thumbnail, in the case of a pixel-based layer like this one. If you're working with the some other kind of layer you can double-click any empty portion of the layer over here on the right-hand side or you could just drop-down to the fx icon and choose Blending Options. Any of those approaches is going to work. And then notice these sliders down here at the bottom of the dialog box, they are often called the Blend If sliders.
Blend If refers just to this little blending option right here and I'll show you what's up with that in the future exercise. But the sliders function independently of that option. They are that This Layer slider and the Underlying Layer slider. This layer controls which luminance levels are visible in the active layer, Underlying Layer which should be called underlying layers plural because it could be a stack of layers piled on top of each other, controls the display of luminance levels being forced through from those underlying layers.
So we are going to start things off by dragging this white slider triangle over to the right. And notice what I'm doing here. As soon as I take it over to let say something like well let's say a 101 that's fine. Any luminance level that's a 101 or brighter, bearing in mind that 0 is black and 255 is white. Anything with the luminance level of a 101 or brighter, is going to go transparent. So it's a dropping out and anything a 101 or darker, is remaining visible. That's exactly the opposite of the effect we want of course because we are dropping away the bright stuff the lightning and we are leaving the dark stuff in its wake.
So let's go ahead and reset that guy all the way back to 255 and instead we will drag the black slider triangle like so. And I'm going to take it over to let's say 85 for now. And at this point I am saying, anything that has a luminance level of 85 or darker, drop that out of the active layer. Anything 85 and brighter, keep that visible. Problem is let's go ahead and zoom in here so you can see, we've got some oftenly jagged transitions. That's because, this is an on-off proposition so far.
Either the pixels are opaque if they are brighter than 85 or transparent if they are darker. What we need to do here is introduce some fuzziness that is lend some softness to this transition and if you take a very close look at the slider triangle's, you will notice that they are different than what we just saw in the Levels' dialog box. Instead of being solid triangles, they have a little cleft in the middle of them. And that shows you that they're actually two triangles fused together. You can pull them apart by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac and dragging in our case, the right half of that slider triangle over to 175 is what I'm looking for.
And so now, notice that we have these nice soft transitions, around the bolt of lightning. And what we were saying just to be clear about what these values now mean. Anything that has a luminance level of 85 or darker is going transparent. Anything with a luminance level of 175 or brighter is remaining opaque subject to the Screen Mode of course. And anything in between 85 and 175 is growing increasingly opaque, so that we can see it more and more over the span of these luminance levels.
And as a result, we get this nice, soft transition. Alright, I will go ahead click OK in order to accept that result and that's how you use that this layer slider, inside of Photoshop. In the next exercise, I will demonstrate how to work with the underlying layer slider.
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